One of the most time-honored traditions of budget travel in New Zealand is the fabled campervan experience. This form of low-impact, low-stress, often long-term travel has been celebrated by many as the best way to see the country for less money and retain ultimate freedom over where to go. With so many choices of where to go and what to see, it can be tough to narrow down your options. For those planning to see both islands or just one, this guide can help you find some of the highlights of a campervan trip around New Zealand’s north island.
The amount of volcanic activity in New Zealand is very impressive. For example, this BBC report shows the second eruption of Mount Tongariro in 2012 alone. Rotorua is another famous spot for observing the effects of unstable plates and buildups of hot gases, as there are a number of geysers, boiling mud fields, and lakes exhibiting bizarre colors from the natural chemicals of the area. It’s also a great spot for bungy jumping and skydiving. What better combination could there be?
2. White water rafting
The Tongariro River is one of the best rafting spots in the country, and probably New Zealand’s most famous river. It is conveniently divided into rapids of varying difficulty levels, making it an accessible place for a first-time rafting experience, but also a challenging and exhihilarating spot for more extreme rafting at certain times of year. The scenery is breathtaking, featuring gorges, cliffs, and beech forests. Clean water, lots of fish, and great opportunities for making friends add to the appeal.
Want to really get out in nature? The far north is the place to do it. With New Zealand’s most temperate climate, this is the place to go if the weather elsewhere gets you down or you just want to explore the wilderness. Massive forests composing some of the oldest trees in the world, beautiful bays with small towns and islands off in the water, and huge sand dunes are all common things to stumble across. This is prime territory for spending some quality time with your mates on an independent campervan adventure.
Feel like climbing a volcano? The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is by far the most famous option for doing so, and is a great short trek across a volcanic plateau with predictably stunning views. Taranaki is only 2.5 km high but offers one of the most challenging day hikes in the entire country. It takes 6-8 hours, and offers a vantage point of the entire island. It is far less crowded than Tongariro Alpine Crossing but has views to rival it.
5. The drive itself
For many who want to have the best wilderness campervan experience, the feeling of being on the road itself is a big part of the draw. Fortunately, the north island has some truly beautiful stretches of road. The Twin Coast Discovery Highway takes in both the east and west coasts in the north. Caitlins Coast in the south is even more photogenic, offering sublime views across the water. And if you’re the sort of person that needs to stop once in a while for a surfing break, Taranaki’s Surf Highway 45 on the west coast is the place for you.
What are you waiting for?